Big-12 Tournament Preview
IS THE BIG 12 A SLEEPER CONFERENCE FOR THE DANCE...OR JUST ASLEEP?
Everyone knows that the Big East (whose postseason tournament we profiled yesterday) is loaded for bear heading in the Big Dance. Everyone knows that the Big 10 (whose tournament we'll profile tomorrow) has the potential to get two or even three teams all the way to the Final Four. The Big 12 is a league that we'll have three teams seeded for a serious shot at the Sweet 16...but isn't quite seen as a major story.
Our task today...find out if the Big 12 is about to make headlines throughout March...or if they're about to fall by the wayside as an overrated collection of pretenders.
To give you a sense of the landscape, here are Joe Lunardi's current Bracketology projections from ESPN's website for Big 12 entries (as of midday Tuesday).
Kansas...projected #2 seed
Oklahoma State...projected #4 seed
Kansas State...projected #4 seed
Oklahoma...projected #10 seed
Iowa State...projected #11 seed
Baylor...not in, projected fourth team OUT
Were those to hold...that's three teams projected for the Sweet 16...which is better than the ACC, SEC, or Pac 12. Barring upsets...Lunardi is saying the Sweet 16 is going to mostly be the Big 10, Big East, and Big 12...with Duke and Miami representing the ACC and Gonzaga flying the flag for all mid majors.
The problem is...if Kansas turns out to be a pretender...then EVERYBODY is a pretender! You've probably watched the Jayhawks struggle in a variety of road games on ESPN. Their humiliating loss at TCU wasn't televised, but got enough coverage to rock the world. Are there any other "great" teams who would lose like that to TCU? Could you imagine Indiana or Louisville falling apart against a weakling that's so far detached from the rest of the nation in Power Ratings?
Kansas opened the season very well. That's frontloaded their resume and stathead stuff to a large degree. They've consistently looked mortal away from home in league play, and at home in a few instances. If Kansas is really more like a #6 seed right now than a #2...then.
Oklahoma State isn't anything special for beating them in Lawrence and taking them to overtime in Stillwater.
Kansas State is REALLY in trouble because they lost TWICE to Kansas and didn't look very competitive in the process.
Oklahoma is most known for a home win over Kansas that pushed a Jayhawks losing streak to three games.
Iowa State took Kansas to overtime twice but couldn't beat them.
Baylor had fallen off the radar until crushing Kansas in kind of a lame duck game this past Saturday.
Much of how Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Baylor are perceived in the media and in the computers is based on what happened when they played Kansas. If Kansas would only be fifth or sixth best in the Big East...then we're dealing with this reality.
Kansas is more like a #5 to #6 seed
Oklahoma State and Kansas State are more like #8 or #9 seeds
Oklahoma and Iowa State are bubble teams who would be slotted around #12
Baylor wouldn't be a sure thing to thrive in the NIT
And, if you're a fan from Big 12 country who thinks we're just blowing smoke, check out these ratings from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy...
Kansas State only ranks #35 nationally in his statistical composite...which is the same as a #9 seed. Pomeroy's Adjusted Defense evaluation (accounting for pace and schedule strength) as them down at #83. Good luck winning with soft defense in the Big Dance!
Iowa State is neck and neck with Kansas State in Pomeroy's estimation. But, they get a big boost from three-pointers on offense, which is the least reliable stat in tournament basketball. Iowa State ranks #124 in Adjusted Defense.
Oklahoma is only #50 in Pomeroy's assessment...which is right on the bubble. They rank #87 defensively to this point in the season.
Kansas grades out well with a front-loaded season. Oklahoma State grades out well because they played good games vs. Kansas. The Big 12 is a cookie that could be ready to crumble once they run into tough opposition in the Big Dance. Be sure you're watching the Big 12 tournament closely for weaknesses that could be exploited next week.
Here's a quick look at the brackets...
KANSAS' HALF OF THE DRAW
The computers say this is the weak half of the draw. Kansas gets to play the weak half in Kansas City! There's no way they should remain as a top two seed in the Dance if they don't win this event in front of such a friendly crowd. Iowa State is one of those teams who can get hot on treys and create quite a bit of drama. That makes them a potential darkhorse...but soft defense is always going to be an issue when the treys aren't falling.
KANSAS STATE'S HALF OF THE DRAW
We have Okie State better in our proprietary Power Ratings even though they're not seeded as well as K-State. They would be our pick to represent this region. Texas might be a team to watch because they finally have their full roster together and they're trying to earn an NIT bid. If the Horns dispatch TCU, and K-State comes in overconfident...that quarterfinal could get interesting.
You longtime readers know that we aim for skepticism when evaluating Dance teams because you make your money going AGAINST the right teams in the NCAA's much more than riding one hot team. If the media is hyping several teams...they're probably overstating the case for at least seven of them (in some years, it's eight or nine!). We can assure you we'll be watching this tourney very closely.
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Back with you Thursday to talk about the much anticipated Big 10 tournament. Will Power Rating form hold? Meaning the best teams in the country creating one of the most exciting conference Final Fours EVER? Or, will this league's upset history come through again, launching a surprise team like Illinois, Iowa, or Purdue deep into the festivities?
Friday through the weekend we'll pick up on developing stories to provide handicapping context and insight. Your success in the Big Dance will be significantly influenced by what you learn THIS week by watching games and reading the sports betting NOTEBOOK.
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